by Max Brantley
I've been watching with interest a Downtown Neighborhood Association effort to combat the open air wine-tasting associated with the Warehouse Liquor outlet on Main Street. This is no "Sideways" ramble through Napa. A sometimes unsavory assortment of characters is known to do a bit of brown-bag imbibing in the vicinity after buying hooch at Warehouse. They're not sipping merlot. Low-cost vodka pints are popular. The festivities include pan-handling, litter, public urination and and other side effects, including alleged crimes by some of these store patrons. I've witnessed some of these fellows myself while stopping at the store to inquire about directions to a nearby church.
The latest dispatch from the DNA indicates their complaints produced a whopping one-hour investigation by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency, which found no problems within its jurisdiction.
Read the DNA report on the jump.
UPDATE: From "a mom":
I drive by Warehouse Liq. on my way home. I usually work until 7 p.m.. There ARE customers of Warehouse drinking out of paper bags, sitting or standing in groups or drinking while walking towarddowntown. Almost everyday!
LRPD missed two very popular drug transaction spots: 9th and Scott (busy every evening) and 17th and Main (late night on weekends is busy).
From Sec. Kathy Wells:
Warehouse Liquor store at 1007 S. Main St. operates in compliance with state alcohol-sales regulations, according to state officials. DNA asked for relief from the city.
Michael Langley, dir. of state ABC division, met with three downtown residents on Tues. and handed over copies of a Warehouse Liquor review conducted by his counterpart, Carl Kirkland of the ABC Enforcement Division. The conclusion was that ABC Enforcement found no basis for DNA complaint that the permit holder violated the "Good Neighbor" regulation of the agency, and so would do nothing further.
DNA then asked Mayor Stodola, City Mgr. Bruce Moore, City Atty. Tom Carpenter and Chief Stuart Thomas of the LRPD what city will do to abate this nuisance. This will be on agenda of public safety meeting with these officials at 4 p.m. Wed. May 16 at Curran Hall, 615 E. Capitol Ave.
Langley met with Kathy Wells, Sarah Smith and Kay Tatum. The appointment was obtained by Smith. Langley gave copies of the Kirkland review to the three, which concluded: "There seems to be no concrete evidence that the outlet is doing anything
Kirkland's conclusion rested upon a report from Michael Bush, Enforcement agent, who reported that he and another agent conducted surveillance for one hour on Mar. 28 - time of day unspecified. No violations of regulations were seen, he wrote. Further, he drove the area, and found "the outlet was not any worse or better than any other lot open to the public for business." He returned to the store April 4 and again found no unusual activity, the report said.
Bush reviewed LRPD incident reports on the liquor store provided by DNA, and
discounted them all. He concluded: "If the City of Little Rock believes this location to be a threat to the welfare and stability of it's citizens it should file a motion with the Pulaski County Circuit Court to begin an abatement hearing."
there was no mention of a security guard at work, nor any indication that Bush spoke with that guard, much less that Bush observed the guard at work, and how well that guard secured the lot to uphold public safety and ABC regulations. Smith noted she had visited with the guard, who told her that he worked three such jobs, including one at another outlet owned by the Singh family, owners of Warehouse Liquor.
Langley told the three that parking-lot crime or disorder could be the fault of passers-by, not patrons of the liquor store. Langley said more proof was needed to conclude that crimes against people here, or disorder, were the fault of the permit holder inside the building.
Langley said the agency handling of complaints followed this path:
* complaint from public is given to ABC Enforcement agents and investigated.
* if regulation violation is found by agent, this citation is given to Langley, who judges the case.
* if he finds a violation has occurred, Langley orders fine to be paid, suspension of the business for a period, etc.
* the permit holder may appeal the director's order to the full ABC Board at its monthly meeting.
* the permit hold may appeal the Board decision to circuit court.
Langley noted that Kirkland is employed by Richard Weiss, dir. of the Ark. Dept. of Finance and Admin., and he and Kirkland are equal in rank. Langley may ask for an investigation, as he did when the reports were handed him by DNA, but he cannot act further unless Enforcement officials find a valid complaint to pursue.
Langley also provided DNA with a copy of a May 24, 2006 memo from an Enforcement agent about complaints of neighbors against the nuisance activity at Warehouse Liquor, which discounted these.
Arkies say "Even a blind hog gets an acorn once in a while."
ABC Enforcements agents flunk that standard.